Winning and the ability to draw crowds are common threads between the Komets, Mad Ants and TinCaps, and reasons all three helped to make Fort Wayne the No. 4 city on Livability.com's rankings of the Best Minor League Sports Cities in the Country.
“It is great to be included on this list,” TinCaps President Mike Nutter said. “It is a testament to the great fans we have in our town and region for minor-league sports. The Komets, Mad Ants and TinCaps all have very passionate fans that care about winning in addition to all of the promotions we do.
“Fans in this region are also fortunate to be able to attend events in world-class markets. Both the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and Parkview Field win annual awards for amenities, customer service and promotions.”
Toledo was ranked as the best minor-league sports city.
Livability.com liked that Fort Wayne sports fans had so many choices because of the overlapping schedules of local teams; that the Komets, TinCaps and Mad Ants have all won recent championships and that they're all near or at the top of their leagues in attendance.
“Another thing that bears mentioning is the teams in Fort Wayne respect and support one another. That isn't always the case in many cities. All of the teams have season tickets with the other teams and we use these to entertain staff, clients, fans, etc,” Nutter said, noting that the Komets' Cody Sol threw out the first pitch at a TinCaps game before the Komets' playoffs began.
“Same with the Mad Ants – Tim (Bawmann, president of the Mad Ants) is a friend of over 20 years and we have worked with each other for help with playoff visibility at the start of the season, etc.
“We are honored that the TinCaps are included on this listing, and we share this recognition with our friends at the Komets and Mad Ants and all of the passionate fans that support all three teams.”
Toledo is home to the Mud Hens baseball team and the Walleye hockey team.
“Not only do the Mud Hens routinely pack the summer stands with fans at their Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo, but they can also claim a lot of responsibility for giving the downtown revitalization some much-needed momentum,” wrote Livability.com, though its remarks could just as easily have been talking about Parkview Field in Fort Wayne.
“In 2002, nearly 50 years after they had left the city for a park in the nearby suburbs, (the Mud Hens) came back – with fans welcoming them with open arms. After the Mud Hens made the leap to go back downtown, new businesses and restaurants followed suit.
“Today, an entire entertainment district, nicknamed 'Hensville,' serves as the new heart of downtown with craft beer tasting rooms, art galleries and the largest souvenir store in minor-league baseball, called 'The Swamp Shop.'”
At No. 2 on Livability.com's list was Hershey, Pennsylvania, followed by Durham, North Carolina.
“I know the focus (of this) is a minor-league sports town, but I would include all the superb youth sports which makes Fort Wayne No. 1,” said Bawmann, head of the Mad Ants, the G League affiliate of the Indiana Pacers. “We regularly have state champions crowned from the Summit City. I would put our market up against all others, any time.
“It's hard to beat us with a hockey franchise that has been around longer than many major league teams, an owned-and-operated NBA G league team and one of America's best MiLB ballparks.”
Just behind Fort Wayne on the list of cities was Charleston, South Carolina.